BIDDEFORD — The University of New England, with campuses in Biddeford and Portland, will award more than 1,500 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees during its 189th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18. Bernie Sanders, U.S. senator from Vermont and the longest-serving independent member of Congress in U.S. history, will deliver the university’s Commencement address.

The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

The Almanac of American Politics calls Sanders a “practical and successful legislator.” Throughout his career, he has focused on bolstering the American middle class and narrowing the income and wealth gaps in the U.S., according to a UNE press release.

“Senator Sanders holds a significant role in the American political arena,” said UNE President James Herbert, who was invited by Sanders last February to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the health care workforce shortage. He commended Sanders as an unwavering supporter of broadening health care access, particularly for underserved communities, a cause with which UNE shares a deep commitment.

Sanders is serving his third term in the Senate after winning reelection in 2018. He gained strong support during his two runs for president, coming in second in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from UNE.

An honorary Doctor of Laws will also be awarded to Arthur “Art” P. Girard, whose vision and generosity have been instrumental to UNE’s growth over the past decade, according to the release. The Arthur P. Girard Innovation Hall, inaugurated on Nov. 1, 2022, stands as a testament to Girard’s commitment to UNE. The building — formerly a Maine National Guard armory where Girard served three years in the 103RCT Medical Corps before serving in the U.S. Army — now houses UNE’s Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center, health care simulation labs, debriefing rooms, classrooms, and a large-scale function space.


As a local developer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Girard and his family have made significant contributions to UNE, including the gift of Ram Island in Saco Bay in 2014. This island serves as a marine research field station for the university’s Marine Sciences programs based in the Arthur P. Girard Marine Science Center. With his roots in southern Maine, Girard’s legacy continues to impact UNE’s Marine Sciences programs and the broader community, the release states.

Girard has received recognition across the state for his work, including a proclamation from the city of Portland for his contributions to city development, and, most recently, the Maine Osteopathic Association Sandra Featherman, Ph.D., Award for outstanding contributions to the state’s osteopathic community.

UNE graduates will receive degrees in osteopathic medicine, dental medicine, pharmacy, health sciences, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, human services, education, and business, among other graduate and baccalaureate programs.

More information about the ceremony can be found on the Commencement website. View the livestream at

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